I know what you are thinking, ‘Laura has gone mad; it is far too early to start learning material for my exams in May/June’. Well, here is why you might be wrong…
Exams can be a very stressful time of year and, throughout my time at university, I have found the best way to alleviate some stress is to start studying sooner rather than later. If you start your exam preparation early, you are giving yourself the best chance of retaining the information you need and gaining a deeper understanding of the courses content. Here are my top tips:
1. Make a revision timetable
The first thing any student should do before tackling the books is create a timetable for revision. Start by blocking out the days when you know you won’t realistically find the time to study – and then begin scheduling in the times when you can. The timetable should be as specific as possible including details of the; date, time, duration of study, topic, and studying technique.
Remember to keep things realistic and try to comprise a timetable that is more motivating than off-putting.
2. Create and organise your notes
The second-best thing to do when starting to prepare for exams is to get your notes in order. Make concise notes that are easy to understand using a system that works best for you. I use Quizlet as my method of note taking. It’s an online platform that allows you to create your own flash cards and folders to store them in; much easier than trying to manually file pages and pages of handwritten notes.
3. Study more frequently for shorter periods of time
If you start early enough, you have the luxury of time on your hands. There is no pressure to study for extended periods or stay up late desperately trying to memorise the Krebs cycle. Without the added pressure of time, you can leisurely work your way through the relevant content. I recommend trying to fit in a study slot each available day but keep them short, sweet, and focused.
4. Mix-up your studying techniques
The downside to starting early is that you can become fed up with revision. To combat this, I like to mix things up and keep my revision techniques varied. ‘The unconventional revision guide’ should give you some great ideas on how to keep your revision interesting.
5. Devise questions to help you recall information
Once you feel confident that you have retained a good amount of content, start creating some questions that will test you on your knowledge and understanding. Mix topics up, get creative, and keep them challenging.
6. Answer past paper questions
After a good amount of studying and self-testing, it is time to tackle the types of questions you will be examined on. Often, past paper questions can be reworded for subsequent years or even repeated, and so it is well worth investing time into studying them.
The final part to anyone’s exam preparations is relaxation. Controversially, I usually don’t touch a book the day before an examination to allow my mind the time to rest and recharge. Too often, I hear students complain about how completely burnt out they are whilst entering an examination hall, which can’t be good for memory recall and the ability to apply retained knowledge.